The Bandwagon Effect

A few years ago I did a journal review of Bandwagon Effects in High Technology Industries by: Jeffrey H Rohlfs (01 October 2001) and the book keeps springing to mind whenever I’m dealing with a new technology…

The bandwagon effect states essentially that people’s preference for a commodity increases as the number of people buying it increases. This interaction potentially disturbs the normal results of the theory of supply and demand, which assumes that consumers make buying decisions solely based on price and their own personal preference.

In consumer electronics this has seen the demise of betamax video and the videophone amongst others.However, what’s this got to do with the Great E-mancipator? A good example might be the current limited take-up of digital television, which reflects upon its limited use by the councils responding to my research. It also presents a difficulty in trying to plan customer access, what if we’d spent a fortune investing in technology around videophones, as happened, never made it? I have concerns around Web 2.0 and similar technologies.

Someone complained recently that local government was a couple of years behind the private sector in web terms, I would ask if that is a bad thing? Some technologies like colour TV in the USA took ten years to take hold, can local government follow every whim in the hope of backing the right horse on every single occasion, I don’t think so.

What we need is to be coordinated, cooperative and communicating in order to learn what is going on and be prepared to use technology for the citizen, when it suits the citizen to use it!

The issues are entirely human, as in the words of the author of another good book, The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage – Epilogue page 199:

“The hype, scepticism and bewilderment associated with the Internet – concerns about new forms of crime, adjustments in social mores, and redefinitions of business practices – mirror precisely the hopes, fears and misunderstandings inspired by the telegraph. Indeed they are only to be expected. They are the direct consequences of human nature, rather than technology.”


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